Vote on community centre’s plan to sell car park for development

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Lymington Centre car park
Lymington Centre members will vote on plans to sell part of the car park

A SPECIAL meeting will decide whether the Lymington Centre sells off part of its car park to a developer to raise funds for a nearly £2m makeover.

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Members of the community association are set to vote next week on the plan which would dispose of a plot at the northern end of the car park, next to neighbouring Brunswick Place.

The centre has already secured £900,000 from the town council in the form of a grant from a £1.7m public fund land access agreement it made with housebuilder Pennyfarthing Homes for its development off Alexandra Road.

But a condition of that money from the council is that the centre must match-fund the sum within four years or lose out.

According to a trustees’ letter to members, only 10% has been gathered so far despite recruiting the services of a professional fundraiser, so they are proposing the car park sell-off as the “only viable way forward”.

There is anxiety that even if the match-funding target is reached within the timescale, several years of inflation would limit what could ultimately be achieved with the available finances.

The plan involves demolishing the “hazardous” John Howlett craft building and using the space for more parking, said the letter.

It went on: “The trustees recognise the importance of the parking provision for centre users and those with reduced mobility, and will give this priority in discussions with potential developers.”

The A&T understands the trustees, led by chair Anna Rostand and vice-chair Bob Blatchford, might face opposition at the meeting as there is concern among some members about the impact of the sell-off.

There is also unease about the long-term effect on the running of the association from two other motions shaking up how it is organised.

The first will be a vote to alter a requirement under governing documents from 1948 that any land sale must be approved by two-thirds of a meeting of Lymington residents – not just the members.

The trustees’ letter argued that preserving the rule posed a problem because the current membership is not restricted to Lymington and it would also be impossible to verify in any ballot who was a local inhabitant.

The second motion is to switch the association’s structure from an unincorporated charity to become a charitable incorporated organisation (CIO) – releasing the trustees from personal and financial liability for debts.

The letter said regulators at the Charity Commission had agreed to the amendment to the land-sale voting process, and had also recommended the proposed switch to become a CIO.

The Lymington Community Association which runs the Lymington Centre was founded in 1947. The facility in New Street is now visited by hundreds of people every week who use its range of 16 rooms for clubs, events and activities.

The refurbishment project was launched in 2017 to mark the centre’s 70th anniversary and includes repairing infrastructure, improving accessibility, upgrading toilets, and renovating the café.

The association’s trustees, solicitor and architect will be on hand to answer questions at the meeting, which will be at 6pm on Thursday 13th June at the Lymington Centre in New Street. It is open to the public but only members will be able to vote.

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